The Impact of Grad Transfer Quarterbacks in College Football

Russell Wilson
Badgers Threatening NG Pen” by Steve Shupe is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By Furtakes

College football is a 365 or 366 days a year grind. Coaches have to constantly work to make their team better. Whether it’s coaching during the season and preparing your team each week or trying to find new high school recruits each year to constantly bring in competition so your team will have a constant talent pool and depth every year. Coaches every year are always moving from year to year without having the restriction of sitting out one year as would a college player. An FBS player has to sit out one year if he wanted to transfer from say Michigan to Florida. It seems to be an unfair advantage, in my opinion, that players can’t go from school to school without sitting out while a coach that recruited a player can leave immediately if he lands a better job.

Recently however, there is a new fad of players being able to transfer without sitting out if they graduate from their university. According to the NCAA bylaw 14.6.1 “Student-Athletes who have earned their bachelor’s degree may also participate in athletics as a graduate student at another Division 1 college provided they meet certain criteria”. However, NCAA.org also states “it has become controversial in football and men’s basketball due to the high-profile cases and data has shown that many transfers in those two sports earn fewer graduate credits and leave school when their eligibility expires,” usually to enter the NFL or NBA draft. This market has become a big hit at certain position in these sports as well.

The first example that comes to mind is when Russell Wilson graduated from North Carolina State and chose to take his talents to the University of Wisconsin to play for the badgers. The three-years prior to Wilson attending Wisconsin, they were led by quarterback Scott Tolzien, who did take them to the Rose Bowl, but in 2010 threw for only 2459 passing yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. The next year when Russell Wilson was the starter, he blew those numbers away. Wilson threw for 3175 passing yards, but his touchdown to interception ratio of 33 to 4 is just unheard of. That year they did win the big ten title as well, but ultimately lost in the Rose Bowl again. This did propel Wilson’s NFL career because NFL scouts wanted to see him play behind a big offensive line, which Wisconsin is known for having guys like Joe Thomas, Travis Fredrick, Gabe Carimi and Ricky Wagner.

The next move that some people might forget is a lot more recent, but not talked about as much. This quarterback actually has two national titles, but only started his senior year. Jacob Coker was a backup to Jameis Winston at Florida State, where they won a national title in 2013. He graduated and decided to go to Alabama to try and be the heir to the Alabama throne of decent quarterbacks surrounded by talent. Coker, in his first year, lost the competition to Black Sims, but in his senior year won the job and managed the Tide all the way to a national title in 2016 CFB playoff national title game against Clemson. That team was stacked however with guys Cam Robinson and Ryan Kelly on the offensive line paired with Derrick Henry, OJ Howard and young freshmen wide receiver named Calvin Ridley, who will be a first round pick this year. Coker had a solid game of 335 passing yards and two touchdowns to give Nick Saban another ring.

Not every grad transfer is a hit though, Vernon Adams of Oregon was hyped up to be the next Mariota essentially, but failed. They lost the second game of the season to a ranked Michigan State team, but did have some great wins in the Pac 12. However, they ended up not making the college playoffs a year after losing in the national title game. He did have solid numbers, but when you’re expected to be an immediate impact player, the expectations are high.

This is just a small example of guys, but every year you will sit down and say “oh i remember that guy.” Next year Jacob Eason will be at Washington after losing his job to Jacob Fromm at Georgia. I think this will only become a bigger and bigger thing. It’s good to bring in a quarterback with experience on basically what is a one year deal. This allows to redshirt a freshman and have them learn from the veteran. Next season while you’re watching games every Saturday, I’m sure you will hear the phrase “grad transfer”.

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